On Saturday (10-13-07) University of Washington fans found themselves on the short side as the Arizona State Sun Devils exploded in Seattle and extended their hitting streak to 7 with a 44-20 win in the second time. The Sun Devils beat Washington in the third quarter 21-0 and in the second quarter 31-3, which is good because if the game had ended in the half, Washington would have won 17-13.
Therein lies the challenge of the young and inexperienced Washington Huskies: They had a terrible 3rd quarter and still haven’t learned how to win games.
This statistic wouldn’t mean much if you don’t know that:
Washington led then No. 10 Ohio State 7–3 at the half and lost 33–14 in its third game. It was tied with #27 UCLA 10-10 at the half and lost 44-31 in its fourth game.
Washington led then #1 Southern Cal 17-14 at the half and lost 27-24 in its fifth game. They led then #12 Arizona State 17-13 at the half and lost 44-20 in its sixth game.
You better believe Sun Devil head coach Dennis Erickson was more than sweating bullets after watching redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker rush for a 32-yard touchdown run with 4:11 left in the first half, giving in Washington its lead of 17-13.
Do Husky fans realize that if each of these games ended in the half, Washington’s record would be 5-0-1 instead of 2-4? Washington would go on to an undefeated record after cleaning up Syracuse 42-12 in one road game and upset then-#22 Boise State 24-10 in their first two games.
Please don’t be a sophomore (like some idiot) and remind me that a game lasts 60 minutes and only the final score counts. To do so would ignore the point I’m making. You could honestly point out that the Huskies have tripped over themselves coming out of the locker room to start the second half of their last 4 games.
Why this is happening leaves manager Ty Willingham in the dark. He is mentioned in Tacoma News Forum (issue 10-14-07) saying, “It’s obviously a hard thing to talk about because I don’t have a solution.”
Willingham, a man of hitherto impeccable standards and integrity, is also honest. Fewer than 1% of all college football coaches would not publicly repeat Willingham’s admission.
One thing is for sure: whatever Willingham and his coaching staff members say or don’t say to the Husky players at halftime is not working and needs to be changed.
Don’t tell me that the same Husky players who might be playing over their head with guts and enthusiasm in the first half become brain dead and numb during the second half. I’d love to be a bee on the wall in Washington’s locker room at halftime and see if any stinging comments are made. As a quarterback and certified Monday morning coach, these would be the first words out of my mouth at halftime during the Arizona State game:
“Let me be the first to congratulate you on a phenomenal first half. Arizona State made some mistakes in the first half and so did we, but you lead the undefeated No. 12 team in the country at halftime, 17-13.
“Some people would say the Sun Devils have more talent on their team than we do, but we lead at the half, 17-13.
“Others would say the Sun Devils have an undefeated record and our record is 2-3, but we lead in the first half, 17-13.
“Still others would say the Sun Devils are #12 in the country and since we’re not in the Top 25, they’re going to win this game, but we lead at halftime, 17-13.
“Now, we’ll quickly give everyone a slip of paper and a pen, and by secret ballot I want you to quickly write down which player you think is the leader of this team.”
After the ballots are immediately collected and Jake Locker’s name is on every ballot or nearly every ballot, I would say this:
“Jake, you may be a redshirt freshman, but your teammates think you’re the leader of the Washington Husky football team.
“I want you, Jake, to stand up right now and tell the coaching staff and your teammates why we can win the second half of this game, how we’re going to do it and what it will take to do it.”
Back then, as head coach, I would sit and shut up and listen. After Jake is done with what he says, I would ask any other player who has received a vote for team leader to stand up and do the same thing.
Let the players convince themselves and believe they can do in the second half what they did in the first half: overcome the opponent. Do it and Washington upsets his opponent.
Now, why is Washington the most statistically incredible team in the nation?
1) The Huskies are ranked No. 41 in the Sagarin ratings.
2) Their current record is 2-4.
3) They are classified n. 1 for playing, for the fourth straight week, the toughest schedule among all 242 Division I-A and 1-AA teams.
4) There is not another team in Sagarin’s top 40 with fewer than 4 wins.
5) The next highest ranked Sagarin team with only 2 wins is #60 North Carolina at 2-5.
6) The Huskies, as the 41st-highest rated Sagarin team in the nation, are ahead of #42 Alabama (5-2), #44 Wisconsin (5-2, and #5 in the AP Poll alone two weeks ago), no. 46 Louisville (4-3), No. 48 Texas A&M (5-2), No. 51 Air Force (5-2) and No. 52 Indiana (5-2). Not too seedy, as the former Opera Man (Adam Sandler) would say on Saturday Night Live.
7) The highest ranked team with the same 2-4 record as Washington is Stanford at No. 68. Stanford played the fourth toughest program in the country.
8) North Carolina, which has a 2-5 record, is ranked No. 60. The Tar Heels had the third toughest schedule in week 7 of college football.
I know, now you wonder who played the second hardest program. It’s 1-6 Notre Dame. I expect the Huskies to lose to Oregon (hopefully not 53-7 like international rival Washington State) and California. I predicted it two weeks ago, on October 3rd.
I also predicted on October 3 that Washington would beat (in order) Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State and Hawaii, finishing the year at 7-6. Wait, Husky fans, the best is yet to come.
Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley